In my teenage years I had this vision that my 20’s were going to be the absolute pinnacle of my life. My best years; a time where I got my shit together and life fell into place. I’d fall in love, have the career with the great salary, have a group of friends that would never let me down, be at my best physically and emotionally. I envisioned moments of laughing and ease as I entered into “maturity”, and life would be much easier as all of the restraints of teenage life would melt away.
It absolutely was not this.
My 20’s were an extension of my late teen years. I was still scrambling around trying to figure out life and fit myself into a pre-defined box that I’d been taught by Hollywood. It’s not Hollywood’s fault. It was my error and my self-sabotage alter ego that clouded my view. Instead of trying to fit myself into everyone else’s box, I failed to take the time to really figure out and stand by the answer to the question “Who am I?”. Of course, this lack of knowing myself and trying to fit in everywhere else made my priorities completely out of line with my truth.
Here are a few:
Living in a Romantic Comedy
I am a total romantic, if you believe it or not. So much so, that I used to want those special moments in the movies to be recreated in my own life, and I often built my expectations of a relationship around that (which is totally unfair to the other person!). I wanted to be the “high school sweetheart” couple, or the “made it through the bad times” couple. I was viewing relationships by identifying with a movie rather than a reality. It seems ridiculous to say it now, but it’s really the truth, and it often led me to make poor choices in order to find that dream.
Now, I am viewing my relationship completely differently. I’ve taken the time and put in the work to discover myself and what works for me. What I like and what I don’t like. And, most importantly, how to communicate this. It’s still a work in progress…and most likely always will be, but I’m not trying to live in a movie anymore, and that’s where my priority has massively had a positive impact in my 30’s.
Fitting in was a big topic in my late teens and 20’s. Living the expat life that I have, I have missed a sense of belonging to just one place. In my 20’s I was completely torn. I wanted to be “different” (maybe from my desire to feel special) but I also wanted to identify with a community. I found some solace in the metal-head music community in New Zealand, however, I was still not a complete fit. There were still so many parts of me that didn’t align with what they stood for, and very often I hid parts of me away or played up parts that weren’t really aligned with me in order to fit in. I was not living my complete truth, and this continued to feed that self-sabotage alter ego and land me in a place where I was consistently trying to be different and an “outsider”. Eventually, that meant that I became an outsider wherever I went.
I would say that only in the last 12 months have I started to really be open about all the things that I like and don’t like. To start identifying not with a community or a construct, but instead to live openly and honestly as myself. I say “no” as often as it feels right. I wear colour if I want to (this was a big NO in my 20’s), I listen to whatever music serves me at the time and I stand behind my own values and opinions.
I joined the workforce pretty young. I started at the cinema and then eventually fell into Retail around 17 years old. I think I transferred my need to be good and praised from my school life to my working life. I cared a lot about working and would say “yes” to anything and everything.
60 hour week? I’ll do it. Plus continue my University from home and do all the other things a young woman in her 20’s is supposed to do.
I landed in visual merchandising when I was about 18, and I was really good at it. I managed to get a few promotions here and there and my priority was really to work myself up to a very senior level. I wanted to be the Head of VM. I wanted to be the person that if there was a question or a decision that needed to be made then I everyone would come to me. I think this was driven from both my desire to fit in and to be needed by others. Looking back, it’s completely insane the things that I would do for my career. I mean, they drove me to a burnout from many years of build up of stress and exhaustion.
As it stands today, my career is not a priority for me. I want to show up, do my absolute best, and finish the working day with a smile. I want to make an impact. But I do not want to risk my health again. Today, I say “no”, I ask questions, I stand behind myself and know my value. It’s still a work in progress here, recovery can be a long road, but in terms of where my focus is, I’ve made a big, positive change.
I wholeheartedly believe that our 30’s are the new 20’s.
Bring on my 30’s!
If you can relate to the shift in priorities from your 20’s to your 30’s, I’d love to hear about them in the comments below!